One Phnom Penh resident and three Takeo residents, including two children, died last weekend trying to keep warm in the coldest weather that Cambodia has seen for 20 years, police confirmed Monday.
A 4-year-old girl and her 14-year-old brother died in a fire on Friday night while they were sleeping with their mother in their hayloft in Tram Kak district west of Takeo town, said Chhin Sitha, deputy commander for Takeo province.
The fire is thought to have started when one of the three accidently upset a kerosene lamp while they were sleeping.
A 75-year-old woman in Takeo also died Saturday night after she lit a small fire under her bed. “We are not sure whether she died from the cold or from the fire,” said Chhin Sitha.
In Phnom Penh, a young man from Samrong Teav village died Saturday night while he was sleeping with two friends in a hay shelter, according to Dangkau District Military Police Chief Chhin Rithy. He said that the 26-year-old man probably died from exposure to the cold.
Sith Vannarith, chief meterologist for the Ministry of Water Resources, said Monday that temperatures plummeted Saturday night to 10.7 degrees in Siem Reap and 13.7 degrees in Phnom Penh. Temperatures in other parts of Cambodia fell to at least 13 degrees.
“This is the coldest weather Cambodia has had in more than 20 years,” she said. The previous record was in 1993, when temperatures fell to 15 degrees in the provinces, she said.
With no sign of the cold spell ending, both Sith Vannarith and police officials expressed their concerns about the dangers of the cold and of using fire to keep warm. They called on everyone to take precautions.
“We are greatly concerned about the risk to our farmers during the cold weather because they like to light bonfires near the rice hay to keep warm,” Sith Vannarith said. Chhin Sitha said that he has ordered his forces across Takeo province to instruct farmers not to light fires near hay or thatched houses.